TULSA, OK — They have been clear. They have been easy. Sticker books have been self-contained worlds till lifting the level of a tiny star required the assist of a babysitter’s press-on nail. The vary of alternative may very well be huge, particularly for those who determined to not use the stickers in the e book’s waxy pages and as a substitute utilized them to surfaces that took the adhesive and saved it ceaselessly (there have been no take-backs when the neon rainbow unicorn discovered its place caught to the kitchen desk). Whenever you peeled a sticker meant for the outdoors, the stakes modified. And so did the world, little by little, as symbols turned icons in a fabric world earlier than social media.
It might be a stretch to say we ’80s youngsters have been being inventive with the sticker books, which ready us extra for managing property (or making a Spotify playlist) than inventing something. At greatest they have been an introduction to accumulating. Julie Alpert magnifies that non-public act and the readymade supplies of semi-homemade craft kits in Sticker Ebook, her solo exhibition at Ahha Tulsa. Her towering symbols waver when low stakes give option to one thing extra consequential, like putting these symbols in context with the wider world.
Flat, cookie-cutter shapes and effusive patterns symbolize what the artist describes as “universal themes of the human experience like her 1980s suburban girlhood.” This assumption of a standard design language of consolation past her Maryland upbringing appears to acknowledge business traits at the time, the most ubiquitous being the Lisa Frank empire of faculty provides and sticker books. However Alpert doesn’t allude to this past the premise, favoring as a substitute an nameless playground largesse now not shocking to gallery goers in an age of immersive set up artwork. The artist appears nostalgic for broad strokes at the same time as she makes use of them to brighten the 4,000-square-foot house of Ahha’s major gallery.
The present succeeds in finding easy childlike longings and providing intelligent options. A 25-feet-wide array of friendship bracelets made of jigsaw-cut plywood floats inches away from the wall. Known as, merely, “Friendship Bracelets Installation” (2022), the wavy circles seem flung and suspended in the air, overlapping as they might on a busy craft desk, however seen by the viewer as if from under this constellation. All the colours and patterns of a set of bracelets are deliciously seen directly. This convening of exhausting materials and smooth movement generates an simple power marked by the absence of something like the embroidery floss that made these keepsakes so fragile and intentional.
That stiff absence of a way of contact, much more than scale, is the central trick of Sticker Ebook. The ephemera represented is saved distant from the viewer attributable to Alpert’s alternative of supplies like medium-density fiberboard or shadowboxes guarding paper collages. Alpert limits herself to shapes and patterns when suggesting high-key theatrics. A critical craftsperson, she stays loyal to this elemental strategy whereas reaching for intergenerational connections, particularly in the massive dioramas whose drippy curtain traces nod reservedly to the comeback of ’90s slime. White hashtag symbols seem in overhead garlands to seal the connection. They didn’t should.
Vital clues to the lineage of set up artwork by which Alpert lands are in all places in Sticker Ebook. The outlines of fringed paper collages evoke generic, clip-art fashion renderings of Totem pole masks so instantly, I instantly Googled the relationship of Lisa Frank to Native American artwork traditions as quickly as I obtained to my automotive. Absolutely I’d be the final to know of some apparent connection. It seems Frank purchased handmade pottery and jewellery from Native American artists, marked up the costs, and bought it on break from the College of Arizona throughout a formative time, she instructed Foundations journal in a uncommon 2015 interview, which was reprinted by Refinery29.
With titles like “Test Print Leggings” (2020) and “Mmmm Grape Jelly” (2020), it’s clear that Alpert’s collages belong to this small world at Ahha that claims its starting in the mid-1980s. However the shared nostalgia on which Sticker Ebook’s premise of engagement is constructed meets Alpert’s constant design pursuits to encourage some questions. If the artist understands how porous we’re to widespread visible associations, what’s the goal of paying tribute to them with out particular cultural and business context? The place is the finish of accumulating and the starting of artwork? Sticker Ebook’s vagueness is a examine in the mechanisms of creating sensory distance, however its nostalgia for limits clashes with the artist’s palpable want to attach.
Sticker Book continues at Ahha Tulsa (101 East Archer Avenue, Tulsa, Oklahoma) by way of November 20. The present was curated by the artist.